Each New Year creates a clear boundary in time. It causes us to pause and look both backwards and forwards; to the year that was, and to the possibilities that lie ahead. Although January 1st is an entirely random point in time to designate as the beginning of the year, the ceaseless flow of the seasons is a natural rhythm that truly distinguishes one annual cycle from another. But today the ancient, slow pulse of those seasons is not as reassuringly predictable as it once was. This week it was warmer at the North Pole than it was in Chicago, Vienna and Istanbul, and weather patterns everywhere are becoming increasingly erratic.

My guess is that future historians will look back at the agreement just reached in Paris in 2015 and see it as a turning point in our tenure on Earth: the time when humanity finally recognized the scope of our impact in the global scheme of things. For thousands of generations of human habitation, we have been a relatively insignificant organism, exerting little influence other than at a very local scale. But in the last few generations, our numbers and our technological abilities have led us to a point where we are capable of profoundly affecting the fabric of the very planet we call home. Our relationship to the Earth has changed, from a vulnerable strand of evolution, subject to the Earth’s unforgiving natural laws, to a dominant species which holds the fate of the critical life-supporting systems of this planet in our hands.

To a large extent, I don’t think that most people are accepting – or even aware – of this profound change. I believe that as a recognition of this new reality, and the lifestyle changes that must accompany a shift towards living securely and sustainably on this planet slowly emerges, it will become apparent first in places where that ancient attachment to the land has not been entirely severed. In places like PEI.

To a greater extent than most places on Earth, the relationship between its residents and the land is profoundly felt on Prince Edward Island. PEI is small, it is fertile, and it is densely populated. PEI also has a long history of acute awareness of our attachment to the land, and how precious that relationship is. Whether through the contentious history of ownership, patterns of usage, or climatic threats, the vulnerability of the land which is PEI is deeply felt.

In a world where 80% of us now live in cities, and where humanity’s sense of connection to the Earth has diminished precipitously, PEI is a place where natural cycles, our dependency on nature, and on each other have largely endured in the public consciousness. As we begin a New Year, let Islanders rise to the new challenge of redefining ourselves at this time and in this place. We can lead a movement that will secure a prosperous, safe and healthy future for the generations that follow us.

-Peter

 

5 Comments

  1. Bill Kays 1 January 2016 at 5:03 pm

    Wonderful message Mr Baker. Thank you.

     
  2. greg bradley 1 January 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Well stated peter. Your insight, and forsight give us reason to pause, and think…. Thank you, and happy new year

     
  3. Bob shackles 2 January 2016 at 9:14 am

    Peter…..we cannot afford to learn from our mistakes when a new year in the near future becomes a point of no return. The key word is learn. How many school systems teach a mandatory sustainable earth curriculum? How often have you heard a person in a pulpit teach their flock about their earth accountabilities. Teaching sustainable behaviours is critical. Sex education is mandatory in many jurisdictions, why not a sustainability curriculum? Bob shackles Ontario

     
  4. david weale 1 January 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Peter…I suppose we will know soon enough whether that caring, nurturing symbiotic relationship to the land will be honoured. I don’t think that will happen because the crew in charge right now have been seduced by other ways of looking at the world and our place within it…the term ‘Mighty Island” comes to mind as an expression of self-denial…anyway, just very happy that you are calling Islanders back to a sense of community that includes the land itself and all that grows upon it or scampers across it. The unfurling has begun, and I doubt not that 2017 will see that continue. Happy New Year!

     
  5. Tim 1 January 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Astutely stated Peter. As a lifelong resident of PEI, l see the inherent value of a community and it’s people who maintain a strong connection to their natural environment. However, our planet is an infinitely complex web of relationships among countless organisms, many of which we have the power to change, and which many of us still to do so. Perhaps power is the problem. We have the power to do so many things, but power is always transferred from one source to another, and often times in the process of gaining power, humanity has stripped it from other beings that had no choice in the matter. We are becoming better at recognizing the injustices we have committed to groups within our species, but not those of other species. Some cruelty-free food for thought for 2017.

     

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